Along the Pentland Road, 25 May 2017

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

From the archives: Wednesday 29 September 2004

In the morning, I jump on the bus to the Houton Ferry, to go to Hoy. Crossing was rendered uninteresting, because we were required to stay below decks all the way to Lyness. On arrival, I have to time my walk carefully. Lyness itself is just plain unsightly. It used to be part of the Scapa Flow naval base, and after the war the Royal Navy just pulled out and sailed off into the sunset. The base was just left to fall to ruin. Worst are all the buildings, also scattered over the hillside beside the village. I walk north along the B9048, in the general direction of Moaness, at the northern end of Hoy. After about 45 minutes, I have left the village and am in the farming area of the island. Workmen are laying long stretches of blue piping, which I later learn are water mains. At 12.45, I reach a picnic site by Pegal Bay.This abuts a small, fenced-off nature reserve. All along this road you'll encounter milestones, totting up the distance between Lyness and Moaness. After Pegal Bay, the road veers inland to cross over the shoulder of Pegal Hill to Lyrawa Bay. Below Lyrawa Hill, 5½ miles / 9km outside Lyness, I encounter Betty Corrigal's grave. This is a recent feature, a fibre-glass tombstone dedicated to the memory of a young woman who committed suicide after falling pregnant out of wedlock in the 18th century. She fell for the charms of a sailor, who afterwards disappeared. She was buried in an unmarked grave, because suicides are not buried in consecrated ground. She lay undisturbed for 160 years, until her coffin was found by peat cutters in 1930. Her body had remained virtually intact, only the noose beside her had turned to dust. She was reburied, but during WW2, sailors frequently got her out. Finally, in 1949, she was buried for the last time. An American minister asked for the current headstone to be erected, but this was not done for another 27 years. After a moment or two, I squelched my way back to the road. I walked up the track, onto the nearby Lyrawa Hill, to view the gun emplacements that lie abandoned there. Nice views east, towards Wideford Hill near Kirkwall, and the hills above Houton. At 2pm, I went back towards Lyness. Forty minutes later, I was very kindly offered a lift back to Lyness by an elderly Australian couple who were here to trace ancestors by looking round graveyards. Their car made short shrift of the remaining 4 miles, and I was left with 1½ hours to kill around Lyness. Wandered up the hill to an ugly, derilict, concrete building that looked as if it had been some sort of HQ. Everything covered in layers of dirt, electrical wiring hanging all over. To escape the chilly north wind, I sat down in the lee of the building for a cuppa. Then ambled down to the ferry terminal. Ferry arrived at 4pm, but they raised the ramp again. It's not due to sail until 4.40. Have a look round the Scapa Flow museum, and the hazardous dockside. Ferry leaves on time, and I'm having a pleasant chat with a nice couple in their mid 50's. They offer me a lift back to Kirkwall once at Houton. One other person joins me in the car, but not before somebody returns me a glove I had dropped somewhere. I'm dropped off outside Safeways for shopping at 7pm. On return to the hostel, I decide to take the late ferry to Aberdeen. A quick taxiride at 10.30 duly delivers me to Hatston, where the ferry lies docked. After about 10 minutes, I'm allowed on board. Am shown to my cabin, where I take a shower, then retire for the night. The ferry sails at midnight, and exactly 4 weeks after arriving in Orkney, I'm leaving the islands. The swell rocks me to sleep.

Postscript: I'd be back in Orkney in October 2008 - will post pictures in a later entry

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